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How audience flagging can help fact-checkers debunk misinformation on TikTok: A qualitative audience study

Stephanie D'haeseleer (UGent) , Kristin Van Damme (UGent) and Tom Evens (UGent)
(2024)
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Abstract
TikTok is experiencing exponential user growth, taking a worldwide lead among social media platforms. This growth is not limited to younger audiences, with older age groups also embracing snackable short videos for news and information (Newman et al., 2023). However, TikTok’s growing presence does not remain without controversy. It is accompanied by an increase in misinformation, such as misleading and erroneous information, edited photos and videos, out-of-context information and AI-generated content. The development of deepfakes and voice cloning techniques has also further blurred the line between real and fake visual content, both for the public and journalists (Paris & Donovan, 2019; Pira, 2023). Due to these developments, journalists and fact-checkers are consequently challenged by various forms of misinformation on social media. This study centres on tackling misinformation on TikTok and investigates how fact-checking can be optimised on the platform. It, therefore, focuses on the affordances of the platform itself (i.e., TikTok users flagging or reporting messages), and TikTok’s collaborations with third-party initiatives (e.g., journalists and fact-checking communities). Fact-checking on social media involves a team of experts (i.e., fact-checkers) to verify the accuracy of questionable stories. These experts need to know which messages provoke doubt among audiences. Hence, it is important to monitor misinformation online. Especially on TikTok, this monitoring is challenging, due to the hyper personal ‘For You’ page. The central research question of this paper is therefore: How can TikTok users contribute to the monitoring of misinformation on TikTok, so that fact-checkers can more quickly debunk misinformation stories on the platform? To answer the research question, the study considers two elements. First, regarding audience flagging, we examine which affordances on TikTok enable users to report potentially false information on the platform (i.e., flagging, sharing, or reporting). TikTok users can use the platform’s flagging or reporting feature, or alternatively share a message with journalists or other experts via direct message or tagging in comments. The aim is not just to list the affordances that users can use to flag misinformation, but more importantly to understand how they interact with them, their attitudes towards TikTok’s affordances and the spread of misinformation on TikTok. Based on, these insights, we formulate recommendations on how fact-checking on TikTok can be further improved. By (automatically) reporting potentially false information as a user, fact-checkers on TikTok can optimise their fact-checking process and work more efficiently. In this way, end users, journalists and the TikTok platform work together to combat misinformation. Using a think-aloud protocol and about 25 in-depth interviews with TikTok users aged 16+ in Flanders, we thus investigate which affordances and cues they consider important and useful for flagging online misinformation, and which types of fact-checking they find clear, attractive and credible. Preliminary findings suggest that developing a chatbot or tool that automatically notifies fact-checkers when users flag potential misinformation could accelerate the fact-checking process.
Keywords
Disinformation, Fact-checking, Media innovation, Social media, TikTok

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
D’haeseleer, Stephanie, et al. How Audience Flagging Can Help Fact-Checkers Debunk Misinformation on TikTok: A Qualitative Audience Study. ECREA Journalism Studies, 2024.
APA
D’haeseleer, S., Van Damme, K., & Evens, T. (2024). How audience flagging can help fact-checkers debunk misinformation on TikTok: A qualitative audience study. Presented at the ECREA Journalism Studies, Sheffield, UK.
Chicago author-date
D’haeseleer, Stephanie, Kristin Van Damme, and Tom Evens. 2024. “How Audience Flagging Can Help Fact-Checkers Debunk Misinformation on TikTok: A Qualitative Audience Study.” In . Sheffield, UK: ECREA Journalism Studies.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
D’haeseleer, Stephanie, Kristin Van Damme, and Tom Evens. 2024. “How Audience Flagging Can Help Fact-Checkers Debunk Misinformation on TikTok: A Qualitative Audience Study.” In . Sheffield, UK: ECREA Journalism Studies.
Vancouver
1.
D’haeseleer S, Van Damme K, Evens T. How audience flagging can help fact-checkers debunk misinformation on TikTok: A qualitative audience study. In Sheffield, UK: ECREA Journalism Studies; 2024.
IEEE
[1]
S. D’haeseleer, K. Van Damme, and T. Evens, “How audience flagging can help fact-checkers debunk misinformation on TikTok: A qualitative audience study,” presented at the ECREA Journalism Studies, Sheffield, UK, 2024.
@inproceedings{01HHXZDSVWR1WDZ5JAXWC5W34T,
  abstract     = {{TikTok is experiencing exponential user growth, taking a worldwide lead among social media platforms. This growth is not limited to younger audiences, with older age groups also embracing snackable short videos for news and information (Newman et al., 2023). However, TikTok’s growing presence does not remain without controversy. It is accompanied by an increase in misinformation, such as misleading and erroneous information, edited photos and videos, out-of-context information and AI-generated content. The development of deepfakes and voice cloning techniques has also further blurred the line between real and fake visual content, both for the public and journalists (Paris & Donovan, 2019; Pira, 2023). Due to these developments, journalists and fact-checkers are consequently challenged by various forms of misinformation on social media. 

This study centres on tackling misinformation on TikTok and investigates how fact-checking can be optimised on the platform. It, therefore, focuses on the affordances of the platform itself (i.e., TikTok users flagging or reporting messages), and TikTok’s collaborations with third-party initiatives (e.g., journalists and fact-checking communities). Fact-checking on social media involves a team of experts (i.e., fact-checkers) to verify the accuracy of questionable stories. These experts need to know which messages provoke doubt among audiences. Hence, it is important to monitor misinformation online. Especially on TikTok, this monitoring is challenging, due to the hyper personal ‘For You’ page. The central research question of this paper is therefore: How can TikTok users contribute to the monitoring of misinformation on TikTok, so that fact-checkers can more quickly debunk misinformation stories on the platform?

To answer the research question, the study considers two elements. First, regarding audience flagging, we examine which affordances on TikTok enable users to report potentially false information on the platform (i.e., flagging, sharing, or reporting). TikTok users can use the platform’s flagging or reporting feature, or alternatively share a message with journalists or other experts via direct message or tagging in comments. The aim is not just to list the affordances that users can use to flag misinformation, but more importantly to understand how they interact with them, their attitudes towards TikTok’s affordances and the spread of misinformation on TikTok. Based on, these insights, we formulate recommendations on how fact-checking on TikTok can be further improved. By (automatically) reporting potentially false information as a user, fact-checkers on TikTok can optimise their fact-checking process and work more efficiently. In this way, end users, journalists and the TikTok platform work together to combat misinformation.

Using a think-aloud protocol and about 25 in-depth interviews with TikTok users aged 16+ in Flanders, we thus investigate which affordances and cues they consider important and useful for flagging online misinformation, and which types of fact-checking they find clear, attractive and credible. Preliminary findings suggest that developing a chatbot or tool that automatically notifies fact-checkers when users flag potential misinformation could accelerate the fact-checking process.}},
  author       = {{D'haeseleer, Stephanie and Van Damme, Kristin and Evens, Tom}},
  keywords     = {{Disinformation,Fact-checking,Media innovation,Social media,TikTok}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  location     = {{Sheffield, UK}},
  publisher    = {{ECREA Journalism Studies}},
  title        = {{How audience flagging can help fact-checkers debunk misinformation on TikTok: A qualitative audience study}},
  year         = {{2024}},
}